World T20: Team India needs an overhaul before it's too late

Colombo: There are many who will scoff at the term ‘overhaul’ especially when it is used in conjunction with a T20 tournament but the need for change is linked not just to how they performed on the field but also how they looked off it.

For most of the tournament — Dhoni complained… about how his bowling isn’t very good; about how they have no pace; about India’s fielding; about the lack of form shown by the openers but when he was asked whether things need to change in the aftermath of yet another defeat, he simply snubbed the question.

“The same question was asked when we lost in England and Australia,” Dhoni said when asked whether the side needed an overhaul after recent failures. "This is the one question that arises when we have not done well but just see the performance in this tournament. We lost one game and lost it badly."

“We all know what impact rain has on the bowlers, especially spinners and bowlers who don’t bowl 140 kph plus. Let’s get practical about what the reason was and then assess if it’s the fault of the players. It is not. It can happen in this format. You are at the stage where other games are having an impact. You don’t want that kind of situation to happen but sometimes you are just forced to accept what is pushed on to you.”

MS Dhoni (C) along with teammates Gautam Gambhir (L) and  Zaheer Khan walk back to the pavilion after the match against South Africa. Getty Images

But let’s be honest, did India — at any point — really look like a team that could go on to win the title? Or did it merely look like a good team — which is not exactly great considering the number of teams that play the game?

The BCCI’s response after India lost in Australia was that once we come back home, things will return to normal... we will return to our winning ways again. And in a sense we did, by comprehensively beating New Zealand in the Tests.

But against England and Australia, it will get tougher. Is this team up for the challenge?

The only change we saw in the aftermath of the Australia tour was forced upon the BCCI by Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman’s retirement. The selectors and the Board were happy sitting in their plush office and showing faith in the team. But faith can only take you so far. It’s time some tough decisions were taken.

Dhoni has completed five years as captain and time is starting to affect him. He seems jaded at times. Last night, for instance, Rohit Sharma came into the attack ahead of R Ashwin and the skipper came up with some convoluted logic for the move. What are his future plans? He cannot keep hiding behind the ‘I am a great believer in the present’ excuse. He may believe in the present but India needs to plan for the future.

India’s opening pair is struggling across formats. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag are looking badly out of form. Gambhir has issues with his footwork while Sehwag’s fitness worries are now starting to affect his game as well. Their last 100-run partnership in Tests came way back in December 2010. Perhaps, it’s time the Indian selectors at least start looking at another option.

Zaheer Khan’s struggles in T20 are very apparent — he bowls length balls, which is not a bad thing in Tests but in T20s, it is akin to committing hara-kiri. His fitness has never been his best suit and he really needs to work on that. There has to be a minimum fitness level for him and it can’t be the current mark. Finally, does India really need him in T20 cricket?

The Rohit Sharma question looms large once again. His 25 off 27 balls in the match against South Africa makes one wonder what’s really happening with him. His average for the tournament is 41.00 but that is largely because of one innings — 55 not out against England. In every match he was shunted up and down the order. That could not have been easy for him. Dhoni has great confidence in him but after almost five years in international cricket, what is Rohit Sharma’s standing?

Irfan Pathan cannot be your all-rounder. Gary Kirsten had no confidence in his bowling and his batting is just not good enough. Shane Watson has shown us what an all-rounder is and Irfan just doesn’t measure up. Neither do Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and whoever else the selectors claim can bat a bit.

It’s about being able to win the match with either bat or ball and Yuvraj Singh comes closest to that. India needs to toughen selection criteria and invest more money in finding/grooming all-rounders.

And finally, there has to be some logic given for selections. You cannot select players on hope and ignore hard facts. Piyush Chawla miraculously makes an appearance in World Cup teams, Balaji is brought out of deep freeze, Yuvraj is picked without any match practice. And best of all, the selectors don’t even need to justify their picks. It doesn't happen anywhere else but in India.

The BCCI is too worried about its battles for power at the Annual General Meeting and trying to outflank the opponents to stop and critically assess the state of India cricket. But it’s about time they do or they might have public at large do it for them.

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